VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Detroit Red Wings left it late on Saturday night, but gave themselves a big boost in their playoff push.
Henrik Zetterberg scored in the last second of overtime as the streaking Red Wings beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3.
“I didn’t know how much time was left but it was enough,” Zetterberg said after his 20th goal of the season Detroit moved two points up on Calgary in the battle for the final Western Conference playoff berth.
The Red Wings were pressing in the Canucks zone in the final second when Zetterberg corralled a loose puck after defender Christian Ehrhoff broke his stick.
He fought his way past Ehrhoff to the front of the net and lifted a backhander past Roberto Luongo on Detroit’s 54th shot.
It was the third set of late-game heroics and timely goals for the Red Wings, who concluded a three-game swing through Western Canada with five points.
Detroit beat Calgary 2-1 on Tomas Holmstrom’s late goal on Monday and got a goal from Brian Rafalski with two-tenths of a second left in the third before losing in a shootout to Edmonton on Friday.
“We wanted the win, we needed the points,” Zetterberg said. “We just keep going as long as we need to.”
Red Wings defenceman Niklas Lidstrom said Zetterberg’s tenacity was the difference.
“He was dominant throughout the game,” Lidstrom said. “It’s tough to get the puck away from him when he’s playing like that and he got rewarded at the end.”
Detroit’s effort didn’t surprise Canucks forward Kyle Wellwood.
“They’ve been in the Stanley Cup finals two years in a row and you can tell that they’re on their game right now,” said Wellwood, who opened the scoring on a deflection.
“With the amount of shots and the amount of time they had with the puck, we were fortunate to come away with a tie.”
Detroit is 6-1-1 in its last eight games and improved to 35-23-13 overall.
The Canucks ended a five-game homestand with their second loss in three games and slipped to 44-25-3.
Vancouver is still five points clear of idle second-place Colorado in the chase for first in the Northwest Division. The Avalanche have two games in hand.
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who found himself in an early hole after Wellwood and Sean O’Brien scored in the first period, said his team kept battling.
“(Zetterberg) never quit until the final buzzer,” said Howard, who settled down to make 29 saves.
“We stole a point last night (in Edmonton) and we stole the extra point here. It just says a lot about the guys not quitting.”
Todd Bertuzzi, Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula, with a short-handed effort, scored in the second period to give the Wings a one-goal advantage heading to the third.
Bertuzzi found a puck that Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa lost in his skates to beat Luongo, then Datsyuk shocked the Canucks just five seconds later.
Detroit forward took puck from the ensuing faceoff and wristed a shot from the blue-line that deflected of a Canucks defender and past Luongo.
Filppula beat Luongo to give Detroit its first lead on a breakaway with a backhander after Vancouver defenceman Alex Edler mishandled the puck and then fell at the Detroit blue-line.
Sedin gloved down a deflected Bieksa point shot at the side of the net and beat Howard to tie things early in the third.
“We knew they were going to be a desperate team coming off a loss (Friday) night and playing for that playoff spot,” said O’Brien, whose high wrist shot gave him his first goal in 33 games.
“I think they’re in eighth, but they’re not an eighth-place team and we knew that. We got off to the start we wanted to, and then they got a lucky one.”
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault was unhappy with his club, which had a day off Friday while Detroit went to a shootout in Edmonton.
“They should have been fresh,” he said. “They should have been jumping. The other team was better than we were tonight.”
NOTES: The goals by Bertuzzi and Datsyuk were the fasted ever surrendered by the Canucks and the fast in Red Wings history. … It was the final regular-season meeting between the two clubs. … Detroit won the first two and the Canucks prevailed 6-3 on March 3 at Joe Louis Arena. … Vancouver plays in Edmonton on Tuesday then faces Anaheim at home on Wednesday.